Can People With Flat Feet Run Barefoot?

Posted on 29. Jul, 2013 by in Outdoor Recreation

For as long as humans have been running (see: the beginning of humankind), they’ve been running barefoot. It’s aerobic exercise at at its most primal and its most primitive. In recent years, it’s become a popular alternative to technologically-advanced running shoes. The barefoot running craze has many wondering if it’s for them. Around 30% of people have pronating (flat) feet and have likely always struggled with running comfortably. Could barefoot running be even for them?

People with flat feet have long found comfort in running in shoes with high arch supports that keep their feet from pronating (or flattening out to the ground). This need arises from the way that traditional running shoes’ elevated heel centers the runner’s strike around the heel, followed by a rolling motion toward the toe. If it weren’t for high-arched soles in these kinds of shoes, this kind heel-strike and roll could be, over time, incredibly painful for the flat of feet.

The main benefit of running barefoot is that it forces a runner to strike the ground at the forefoot or midfoot, instead of the heel. The idea is that, when striking further up the foot, runners bounce back from the earth instead of merely plodding into it. The impact is more lightly and evenly distributed among their ankles, legs, and hips. In turn, the runner moves more efficiently and is considerably less prone to injury.

This front-striking motion could eliminate, at the source, whatever discomfort the flat-footed runner may feel. Unlike with rolling through your stride, as with traditional running shoes, arch severity doesn’t seem to have any affect on this motion. And there’s yet to be any science to suggest a correlation between one’s arch type and their ability to run barefoot without incident. Barefoot running could truly be for everyone.

Running barefoot, in fact, might actually be better for the flat-footed than others. The motions involved in running barefoot actually work to increase strength, flexibility and arch rigidity of the feet. This could work to counteract a lot of the discomfort associated with having flat feet.

But it won’t necessarily feel good and natural from the very start. Regardless of the kinds of arches your feet are sporting, you need to ease your way into things. Begin running on a soft surface, such as grass, and gradually move to tougher locales. It may be helpful at the beginning to run on cement for just a few minutes at a time, while running most of the way on grass or soft dirt. The ease of barefoot running will, for everyone, reveal itself slowly as it’s worked at.

Given enough time, the flat-footed can, absolutely, run barefoot. They might even find it to be healing.

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